This match up was only possible because of the new Bowl Alliance. Under the old system, Nebraska would have been tied to the Orange Bowl and Florida to the Sugar Bowl. The Bowl Alliance created a national championship game which would rotate between the Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls free of conference tie-ins and featuring the #1 and #2 teams as chosen by the Bowl Alliance Poll. The Pac-10 and Big Ten chose not to participate, keeping their tie-ins with the Rose Bowl.
Nebraska was showing signs of dynasty, playing in its third consecutive national title game, and became the first school to claim back to back titles since the 1970s. This was an amazingly dominant Nebraska team, averaging 52 points per game and a 39 point average margin of victory, including a 62-24 victory over Florida. This lopsided victory came after Florida was picked by many sportswriters to win the game.
Ohio State almost managed to create a national title controversy, going into its final regular season game against Michigan undefeated and ranked #2. Had they finished the season #2 the Bowl Alliance would have been unable to pit #1 vs. #2 as the Big Ten champ was tied to the Rose Bowl. Fortunately for the Bowl Alliance, Michigan upset Ohio State, but Buckeye running back Eddie George still managed to win the Heisman Trophy.
Things were lively in the state of Florida, where the Florida Gators won their third straight SEC championship. Florida State started the season #1, but lost an ACC game for the first time ever when Virginia stopped a last minute drive a few inches from the end zone, knocking them out of the national title race.
However, Northwestern was able to steal the show as the year's Cinderella story. Its only regular season loss came against Miami-OH. Northwestern began the season with an upset of Notre Dame and went on to defeat Michigan and Penn State later in the season. Undefeated in the Big Ten after decades as a doormat, the Wildcats went on to face USC in the Rose Bowl. However, the Wildcats lost to the Trojans in what was a see-saw game until USC pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Overtime was introduced for bowl games only in Division I-A. The system is similar to one used in lower division postseason games; Each team gets one possession at the defense's 25 yard line per overtime period and continues until the tie is broken.
Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties will be assessed on any player who removes his helmet in the field of play other than due to injury.
Officials were instructed to strictly enforce anti-taunting and anti-showboating rules passed in the 1991 season.
The home team is allowed to wear white jerseys if they receive written permission from the visiting school in advance, rescinding the 1983 rule requiring the visitors to wear white. This rule was personally lobbied by new LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, since the Bayou Bengals wore white at home from the late 1950s through 1982. The Southeastern Conference adjusted the rule in 1997 for conference games, when it stated the home team would receive first choice of jersey color, regardless of the visiting team's wishes.